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Attention, Perception & Psychophysics

Year: 2009  |  Volume: 71  |  Issue: 5  |  Page No.: 1015 - 1026

Attentional capture is contingent on the interaction between task demand and stimulus salience

S Lu and S. Han


The aim of this research was to investigate the potential impacts of task demand and stimulus salience on the stimulus-driven attentional capture effect. The participants performed an inefficient visual search task while an irrelevant luminance singleton was present. In Experiment 1, the task demand was manipulated while the stimulus salience of the irrelevant singleton was fixed. With the same salient singleton, the attentional capture effect was observed in the low-difficulty condition but disappeared in the high-difficulty condition. In Experiment 2, the stimulus salience was manipulated while the task demand was fixed. With the same task, the highly salient singleton captured attention, whereas the relatively lowly salient singleton could not. In Experiment 3, both task demand and stimulus salience were manipulated simultaneously. The stimulus-driven attentional capture effect by the irrelevant singleton increased not only as the task demand decreased but also as the stimulus salience increased. The present study might provide a way to reconcile conflicting findings in the attentional capture literature; the underlying neural mechanism is discussed.

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